Sweden exits Euro 2012 after wasting lead again

Sweden exits Euro 2012 after wasting lead again

Published Jun. 15, 2012 11:56 p.m. ET

For the second time at the European Championship, Sweden held a second-half lead and seemed to have the game under control.

And for the second time, the normally so-solid Swedes allowed two quick goals to let the match - and the tournament - slip away.

Sweden was eliminated from Euro 2012 on Friday after a 3-2 loss to England, and will leave Kiev with a feeling that they got zero points from two games they could have won.

''We allowed a couple of extremely cheap goals, especially the second one,'' said veteran defender Olof Mellberg, whose team lost 2-1 to Ukraine in the opening round. ''We conceded five goals in two games, that's too many. It didn't feel like we allowed too many chances, but they still scored five goals.''


Three of those came in the air, including both of Andriy Shevchenko's headers for Ukraine and Andy Carroll's opener for England.

Mellberg was beaten by both Shevchenko and Carroll for two of the goals, but made up for it by creating both of Sweden's scores against England - first forcing an own-goal from Glen Johnson and then heading in a free kick.

But the Swedish defense couldn't close the deal this time either. Theo Walcott equalized with a long-range shot and then set up Danny Welbeck for the winner.

Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic was held scoreless for the first time in five internationals but drew a couple of good saves from Joe Hart and set up Mellberg for the shot that led to Sweden's first goal.

But Ibrahimovic and his teammates still thought they proved a point against England by putting in a much-improved performance from the game against Ukraine, dominating possession for stretches of the game.

''I thought we were a much better team than them,'' Ibrahimovic said. ''We've taken the lead in two games now after 60 minutes and then lost it. ... But today we played exactly the way we want to play.''

Sweden will face France in its final group game with nothing to play for but pride - certainly not what the 18,000 Swedish supporters who traveled to Kiev had hoped for.

This was supposed to be an opportunity for Sweden to showcase its new attack-minded philosophy brought in by coach Erik Hamren in his first major tournament, but instead it raised questions about whether the team had strayed too far from the defensive tactics that had been its hallmark in the past.

But Hamren said he was sticking by his strategy.

''I am really proud of the players,'' Hamren said. ''We showed the mentality, the attitude I wanted to see and we had the courage to play our way of playing. But to win games you need also a little bit of luck.''

And the ability to protect leads.